The Role of Knowledge in Ethical Decisions.
This post presents a philosophical idea inspired by the text of today’s Daf. The Daf is one page in the Talmud that tens of thousands of people study each day. I explain the connection to the text in a comment below. My purpose is to show that there are underlying philosophical assumptions in the Talmud that can have great significance for anybody today trying to understand our complex reality.
If you hurt me, next time I’m not going to trust you. Your actions have demonstrated a lack of concern for my well-being and interests, or have shown that you do not value keeping your commitments.
However, if your actions were unintentional and you were unaware that your decisions would affect me in the way that they did, due to a lack of critical knowledge or awareness, then it may be appropriate for me to trust you in the future. I assume that you did not cause me harm because you do not care about hurting me or keeping your commitments, but rather because certain information was not available to you, at least not at a conscious level, when you made your decision.
Is it true that we should trust someone in the future if they were not aware of the harm they caused in the past? Why were they not aware of the harm? Was it due to incompetence in finding necessary information, lack of effort in finding out, or simply a lack of concern for the consequences of their actions? If any of these reasons were the cause, then it may be reasonable to assume that the same behavior will continue in the future and that trust should not be given.
When evaluating our own behavior or the behavior of others, what is the most crucial aspect to consider? Should we concentrate on the action itself and its outcomes, or on the person’s knowledge at the time they acted?
Some may argue that it is unfair to judge someone for not knowing. While that may be true in some cases, it is not always the case that the person could not have known. It could be argued that a person should be held accountable for not putting in sufficient effort to understand the potential consequences of their actions or for not being aware of the impact on others. Firstly, it may be easier to make a conscious effort to gain more knowledge and think more deeply about our actions than to change fundamental personality traits such as empathy and caring. Secondly, the harm caused by not knowing or being aware can be just as significant, if not more so, than the damage caused by malicious intent.
If the aforementioned argument is valid, the path to becoming a better person and a decision-maker in any given area lies in directing attention towards acquiring knowledge about the subject matter, including its history, genuine requirements, and internal causal structure, and developing awareness of its needs. In essence, the focus should be on knowledge.
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